Dan Fincke sent me the link to an inspirational discussion on William Lane Craig’s Q and A page.
Dear Dr. Craig,
I have usually found your words to be a source of information and reassurance in my Christian faith, and have often sought out your writings and videos in times of doubt or questioning.
So I was really disappointed, almost shocked, when I read your newsletter of April of this year in which you casually stereotypes men and women, and complain that the church is becoming increasingly feminized, and has difficulties in attracting men.
Your compared the audiences at a couple of your speaking engagements to the audience from a clip of a Downton Abbey Q&A at another location – concluding that they were all men at the former and almost all women at the latter “simply because the Downton Abbey program is highly relational, which is more appealing to women, whereas my talks were principally intellectually oriented, which is more appealing to men.”
Wuhay! It’s dear old “it’s more of a guy thing” again. Women like fluffy stuff like relations and big huge expensive houses with expensive dresses, and men hard bony stuff like intellectual talks.
His correspondent goes on,
I believe that you are using stereotypes here, which you justify by making a ridiculous comparison that holds zero statistical significance. Not only is your statement unreasonable, it is potentially damaging – especially when made so carelessly. Stereotypes are shortcuts in classifying people. They can, and often do, limit and distort the way we perceive others and the world. Stereotypes are a lazy way of thinking that can lead to discrimination, and their use should not be encouraged.
So he turns red with rage and tries to stomp her into the ground, yes?
No, he’s better than that. He just talks a lot of patronizing bullshit.
My observations about the peculiar attraction that Christian apologetics has for men involves several claims. Let’s tease these apart to see which of them are objectionable.
First is my observation that apologetics seems to have far more interest for men than for women. That observation is based upon an enormous amount of experience in speaking on university campuses, at apologetics conferences, and in classroom teaching. It is a realization that gradually and unexpectedly forced itself upon me. It became very evident to me not only that the audiences which came to these events were largely male but that in event after event only the men stood up to ask a question. These facts seem to me to be undeniable.
Second is my hypothesis that this disparity is to be explained by the fact that men respond more readily to a rational approach, whereas women tend to respond more to relational approaches. Of course, this is just my best suggestion, and if you’ve got a better hypothesis to explain the disparity, Alexandra, I’m open to it. But there has to be an explanation.
Well, Bill, could part of the explanation be stereotype threat? Which you are doing your bit to re-enforce right here? Could it be that blather like that boils down to “women are kind of stupid, though in the nicest possible way” and that it makes women hesitant to open their mouths lest stupidity come tumbling out?
I think it could. I think patronizing crap like that is part of the very explanation you claim to be looking for.
Please understand that what I’m doing is not stereotyping but generalizing. There’s a difference between a stereotype and a generalization. A generalization admits of exceptions but remains an accurate characterization of most members of a group. Most women do respond better to relational appeals, whereas men tend to like the rational approach. Books on marriage improvement strongly emphasize this difference. In her fascinating book You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation, Deborah Tanner, for example, says that the way men and women communicate is so different that when a man talks to a woman it’s a case of cross-cultural communication!
Ah yes, generalization is obviously nothing like stereotype at all. Notice how he demonstrates that: by using the word “do” before “respond better” – that way we know it’s true. Then he makes us know it even more by saying the name of a book.
I thought at first that maybe the reason women almost never stood up to ask a question was due the intimidation factor: they just feel less comfortable than men getting up publicly to ask a question. That’s why the experience of seeing the Downton Abbey panel was so intriguing to me. Though there were men in the audience, everyone who got up and asked a question was a woman! When a man finally stood up and asked something, this was almost a cause of celebration and was noticed by everyone. Now obviously, this evidence is anecdotal, not statistical, as you point out, but still this was not just accidental. What is the explanation? Those of us who, like Jan and me, are fans of Downton Abbey know how relational the program is, as it follows the personal lives and struggles of those in the house. It’s striking that women didn’t feel intimidated about getting up publicly and asking questions about very relational matters.
What is the explanation? Here’s my hypothesis. It’s that there are no William Lane Craigs running around saying that Downton Abbey is an intellectual subject and that’s more of a guy thing.
He ends on a courageous note. That’s the guy thing coming into play again.
I doubt that what I’ve said in response to your question, Alexandra, will do much to rebuild your faith in my words! My observations about the peculiar attraction that Christian apologetics has for men may not be politically correct, but I believe that they are accurate, even if disappointing and shocking to some.
His observations may not be politically correct, but he believes that they are accurate. Well that’s good enough for me, William Lane Craig!